Updated: Jul 29, 2022
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Sour stuffed cabbage rolls are something I forgot about for years because I hadn't had any since my grandmother passed away. She was the only one I ever knew who made stuffed cabbage this way.
My grandmother was a very strong-minded woman. Everything had to be her way, or it was the wrong way. I remember how she would criticize my mom for making stuffed cabbage the "wrong" way in the winter by using fresh cabbage. Winter cabbage rolls should be made with fermented cabbage! At least according to my grandmother. So, every Christmas and New Year's Eve, she would make these stuffed cabbage rolls.
I was brought up Orthodox Christmas, but my paternal grandmother was a Polish woman, and she was Catholic. Both of these Christian religions use a different calendar for holidays. Even though my grandmother was the only one in the family with a different religion, we celebrated her holidays as well as our own. That meant two Christmases and two Resurrections. As a child, it was a lot of fun! But looking back now, I can only imagine how difficult it was for my parents...
What are "Sour" Stuffed Cabbage Rolls?
Sour stuffed cabbage rolls are made by using fermented cabbage leaves instead of fresh cabbage. In the old days when harvest was over, whatever you had harvested was what you had to make it through the winter. Preserving food was a must, and fermentation was the way to preserve food. It's super easy, and the only other ingredient you need besides the cabbage is salt.
What Do I Like About This Dish?
This dish can be made way ahead of time. It's one of those dishes that's even better on the second (or third or fourth) day.
If you know me by now, you know how much I love fermented food, or, "magic food," as I like to call it (If you want to know the story behind how I came to fall in love with fermented food, you can read more about it here). This dish is full of good bacteria and, just like the shredded fermented cabbage dish called sauerkraut, has so many health benefits.
This dish is also flexible. You can change the filling as you wish. You can use any kind of protein, and it's a great way to use up leftover roast chicken, pulled pork, etc. If you don't have any leftovers, properly cooked chicken will take no time and is easy and delicious. Check out my Cape Cod-style chicken salad recipe post for how to make some quick chicken. You can also choose any kind of whole grain you want. Rice, millet, buckwheat, and barley can all be used in this recipe. My mom mostly used rice, and my grandmother often used millet.
My Grandmother and Grains
My grandmother and grandfather both survived World War II, and they made it through Blokada Leningrada. What does that mean? It means my grandparents were never able to forget the nightmare they went through or the hunger they had to endure during it. She told me so many stories about the survival skills she learned. I wish I could remember more of her stories.
Because of the horrible hunger they survived, having enough food for their family was very important to my grandparents while I was growing up. My grandmother devoted an entire room in her not-very-big house to be the pantry. The whole room was filled with food, especially grains. She probably had more bags of grains in that room than any store in town would have in stock! The grains would always go bad before they could be used. My father would clean it up and ask her not to buy more, but it was useless. She would always buy more.
Is Quinoa as Great as People Say?
Let's face it, quinoa is a trendy grain in these days. It's one of the oldest grains native to America, and it's becoming more and more popular around the world. Quinoa is a multifunctional grain that is rich in different kinds of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, lipids, proteins, and fibers. It also contains a wide variety of antioxidants and also phytohormones, giving quinoa more nutritional benefits than other grains. To get the best health benefits, I recommend soaking the grains. This simple practice of soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli, and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid.
How Do I Make Sour Cabbage Leaves?
Traditionally these rolls are made using the top leaves that are saved after the sauerkraut-making process to lay on the top or bottom of the crock with the sauerkraut. They can then be used as needed during the winter months.
However, if you just want to make leaves for this recipe like I did, here's how you do it:
For every 10 leaves you use, you will need 1 tablespoon of Celtic salt.
Lay each leaf in a glass or ceramic dish, and sprinkle with salt.
Place a heavy object (such as a stone, etc.) on top of the leaves.
Add a little bit of water. Make sure the leaves are laying very tight and surrounded with liquid. They'll produce some juice as well during this process.
Cover with a kitchen towel and leave in the kitchen for six days.
If the cabbage isn't young, the leaves are sometimes still too tough to roll after fermentation. If that happens, feel free to blanch the leaves before you're ready to stuff them.
Now, let's begin...
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Autor: Inna of innichkachef.com
Serves: 10 large rolls, 5 servings as a meal
Cabbage Rolls Ingredients
10 leaves of fermented cabbage (see note above on how to do it)
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup shredded carrots
2 cups cooked chicken (check this post on how to cook it)
1 cup uncooked quinoa
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Celtic salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup parsley, chopped
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Garlic Sauce Ingredients
2-3 cups chicken stock (homemade I prefer homemade)
1 cup crème fraîche or cream
10-15 cloves garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped parsley
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Wash the quinoa and place in a pot. Add 2 cups of water and cook on medium-low heat until it's ready: about 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, to make the filling, place your pan on the stove on medium heat and add a few tablespoons of olive oil plus your onion and carrots, stir, then add salt and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes.
In a bowl mix together the chicken, cooked quinoa, cooked onion-carrot mixture, and the chopped parsley.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Take your cabbage leaves and cut out any tougher bits of stock. Lay a leaf on your workspace and put a few tablespoons of the filling close to the stalk end, then flip the bottom of the leaf up and over the filling. Fold in the sides and roll up as tightly as possible, placing the finished roll into a baking dish. Repeat with the rest of the cabbage leaves and filling, carefully nesting them in one or two layers.
To make the sauce, you can use the same pan (no need to wash it). On low heat add butter, sliced garlic, salt, and black pepper, and cook for a few minutes. Stir once in a while, then add chopped parsley and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute or so.
Add chicken stock and crème fraîche or cream. Bring heat to medium and let sauce bubble for a minute.
Pour sauce over the stuffed cabbage rolls. Cover the baking dish and place it in the oven for anywhere from 30-60 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cabbage leaves.
Serve with nice crusty bread.